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Needed a Socially Engaged Islam

By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

The trail of suicide bombers on Glasgow Airport has been sniffed to Bangalore. Needle of suspicion strongly points towards two young, high skilled Muslim professionals from this scientific hub of India. This only exacerbates the sense of outrage. If indeed the umbilical cord of global terror extends to some module in this city of ours, Muslims need to do a serious scrutiny of the ideological indoctrination the youth are vulnerable to. It will be worth studying as to what seduces them to extremist ideology. Why the youth from the upper middle class are getting radicalized? What kind of clerics hold a sway over them?

Global terror is motivated by the view that the West is waging a war against Islam, brutalizing the Muslims society everywhere and exploiting its economic resources. Audio visual material frequently released by the leaders of global terror operators have made it evident that their rage emanates from televised images of devastation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Much of the anger is directed against the coalition partners in Iraq and the Zionist state in the Middle East.

A thorough analysis would reveal that the lot of the Muslims would not change by hate-mongering against the West. It is hypocritical of the clerics who do not feel qualms in mobilizing youth power through amplifiers, reach for their mobiles every moment and demand government subsidy for Haj flights. The West’s hegemony does not emanate merely from great strides it has made in science and technology but also from organizing its society based on the rule of law, democracy, secularism, equal rights for women, plural ethos and minority rights. All such ideas are anathema to clerics who in their enthusiasm for Islamic Puritanism see no scope for them within Islam. The pertinent question therefore for Muslims to ask is : Will the jihad or terror end elevate the ummah to the level of the West, or ensure equality and justice for the people it is trying to safeguard, endow those nations with long established conventions and institutions, so very vital to sustaining a modern state.

The West has not attained its supremacy overnight. In order to come out of the dark ages, it followed the initiative liberative Islamic prescription of spirit of free enquiry. Muslims after reaching the zenith of civilization, fell from the high pedestal. They first stagnated and then slipped into regression due to the hold of ill-educated clerics whose current stranglehold over the soul of the community is vice-like. One feels pity when Muslim youth are found debating if it is legitimate to use spray perfumes containing alcohol or if the ablution is valid over painted nails. At a time when the lunar calendar could be prepared for the next three millennia, these clerics create a mess on the simple question of sighting of the crescent and easily mar the festive spirit. The community has stooped to such a pathetic low only because the clerics fail to use the scientific knowledge available now. Could not the Muslim intelligentsia take up the task of interpreting the religious text in consonance with the modern day needs? Should Muslims continue to depend on a bunch of muffs who have next to nil knowledge of history, society, geography and economy and the modern values?

The vested interest of the clergy keeps them bound to letter of the holy text rather than getting to the essence and spirit of the scriptures. It is often embarrassing for a Muslim to hear a cleric asking them to marry off the daughters soon after they reach puberty. To boot, he even urges each of the philanthropists at Friday sermons to undertake 100 marriages of young girls to earn rewards for the hereafter. Lo and behold slums of Mysore Road have innumerable grandmothers of ages ranging from 28 to 30! It keeps away at least two generations of Muslim women from education till 12th standard (which in itself is hardly enough for an individual to be a mature person). But our clergy sticks to physical puberty rather than intellectual and psychological maturity while interpreting terms like san-e-buloogh.

Muslims also need to desist the tendency to romanticize the past. It is a pet pastime of fundamen-talists of all variety. No nation has grown powerful by imitating its ancestors. It is one thing to respect the traditions and quite another to imitate them. Those very traditions were innovations of their own times. So old formulae need not be replicated but method of arriving at the formulae should be guiding them ever.

Merchants of perceptions of victimhood of Muslims do not help the matters either. Conflicts have raged in all parts of the world through all ages. The two World Wars were fought between countries of mainly Christian West. But the West learned from its follies. A vanquished Japan shelved its vengeance, swallowed its pride, surrendered its ego and discovered its latent capacity in science and technology. The space-starved nation took the path of miniaturization in hi-tech field. France and Italy blended aesthetics into the technology. China opted for mass production and thereby economy of scale through assembly line manufacture. Israel has developed water conserving technology to the perfection. If indeed Muslims are wary of modern technology’s corrupting influence on morals and manners, they need to research the ways to blend it with their typical lifestyles rather than criticizing ‘the West’s perverted morals’. Criticism would not stop the Western TV programmes from being beamed into one’s bedroom or SMSs clogging one’s mobiles. But certain mullahs still see reason in barking against the West and carrying on a hate campaign.

Terrorism is no route to attain parity with the West, let alone subjugate it. Muslims would need to restore reason and rationale in their scheme of things. It is a long road to success but must be trodden whatever the cost.

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